Report finds dozens of homeless camps in high fire hazard areas

A task force formed to survey high fire hazard zones in Los Angeles in order to identify and clear out homeless encampments found evidence of 191 encampments on 58 parcels of land, it was announced Wednesday.

"We are in the process of finalizing the specific locations of those parcels and determining ownership for notification,'' said Peter Sanders of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The task force survey was completed on Jan. 16, a week and a half after city officials announced the formation of the task force in response to the Skirball Fire in Bel-Air that destroyed six homes. That wind-driven December blaze was believed to have been started at a homeless encampment in the Sepulveda Pass in a wooded area that city officials said they were unaware existed.

Mayor Eric Garcetti and LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas have described the task force, which consists of personnel from the LAFD, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and the Bureau of Sanitation, as a more proactive and systematic approach than what has been done in the past to identify homeless encampments in high fire hazard zones.

During a news conference at a downtown fire station on Jan. 5, Terrazas said the city "never had an organized, systematic approach like we do now,'' and that "we're taking this to the next level, I want a more formalized process.''

Terrazas said that in the past, if LAFD personnel came across an encampment in a high fire hazard zone they would notify the proper departments, but the LAFD did not do any proactive surveying as has now been done.

Terrazas said any identified encampments would be visited by LAHSA and Bureau of Sanitation workers to encourage the people there to move out while also offering them services.

Terrazas also said the survey would be part of a regular undertaking.

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